The U.N. human rights chief expressed concerns Friday that steps taken by the new Israeli government, the most far-right in the country’s history, could fuel further violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the wake of a recent spike in bloodshed in the region.
Volker Türk cited steps such as forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes and government moves to expedite Israelis’ access to firearms. He called on leaders, officials and everyone else on both sides to stop using language that incites hatred, and to shun violence.
“Rather than doubling down on failed approaches of violence and coercion that have singularly failed in the past, I urge everyone involved to step out of the illogic of escalation that has only ended in dead bodies, shattered lives and utter despair,” said Türk, who took office in October as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The region is facing one of the deadliest periods of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years. An Israeli military raid last week killed 10 Palestinians — most of them militants — but also a 61-year-old woman. A Palestinian gunman in a shooting attack a day later outside an east Jerusalem synagogue killed seven people, including a 14-year-old.
Israel’s firebrand national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, responded by taking steps to demolish the home of the gunman and other Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem built without permits, and called for granting more gun licenses to Israelis.
On Thursday, Israeli aircraft struck a rocket production workshop in the Gaza Strip, after Palestinian militants fired a rocket toward Israel. Over the weekend, a shooting in east Jerusalem by a 13-year-old Palestinian wounded two Israelis.
“I fear that recent measures being taken by the government of Israel are only fueling further violations and abuses of human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law," Türk said.
Such laws prohibit “collective punishment,” including punitive forced evictions and demolition of homes, he said, warning that expanded licensing of firearms to civilians plus a rise in hateful rhetoric "can only lead to further violence and bloodshed.”